POSTED : April 26, 2017
BY : Pete Clare

API Governance:  It’s Time to Rethink Governance introduced emerging governance paradigms and practices fueled by digital transformation & API adoption. This post shifts the focus to the business considerations for API governance.

High stakes for business leaders

Yesterday’s technology governance is a CIO/CTO/CSO concern. Today’s digital governance needs to be a CxO priority. Let’s look at a few drivers behind this assertion:

Disruption defense

My first article touched on unbundling as a means of disruption. Digital transformation is a mechanism for companies to proactively unbundle themselves with a goal of gaining the agility needed to defend against (or preferably lead) disruption.   

APIs are now the primary means of attaching digital capabilities to business value streams

In this context… API governance becomes a critical enabler for ensuring:

  • Digital transformation initiatives are delivering business capabilities that will create market differentiation or agility
  • Digital business performance is measured using concrete API KPIs
  • API KPIs are automatically measured by your API Gateway to the greatest extent possible
  • Digital capabilities protect intellectual property (process, trade secrets, etc.) from competitors
  • Your API program results in accelerated value delivery to stakeholders

API Governance becomes a source of remarkable transparency for senior business leaders allowing faster detection and response when digital execution is not ideally aligned to goals or market demands.

Product, brand & identity conveyance

Marketing, public relations, product, human resource or corporate strategy leaders must to pay attention to their public and partner-facing API developer portals.

Here are some examples of API Portal “fails”:

  • You have 4 separate APIs supporting overlapping enrollment options (1 for each internal department / vertical) for a product you market as bundled and/or fully integrated
  • You market a “rich community” using your platform yet your developer forum hasn’t had a single new entry in 15 months
  • You aspire to be seen as innovative yet your APIs are based on dated standards
  • Your APIs use language that is inconsistent with your product / marketing language
  • Your developer portal does not intentionally support non-technical users

When a new consumer requests access to one of your APIs it takes weeks to get approved

Your API portal is a massive opportunity to reinforce product, brand & even company culture messages. Top-level pages should be owned and curated by marketing or product leaders, not technologists.

API “developer” portals have become a great resource for business leaders to evaluate potential partnerships

How does this tie to API governance? Business leaders must be engaged in the development and publication of digital assets as APIs. The time to ensure brand, product and cultural alignment starts with definition. Active business participation in a hands-on community of practice tied to your API governance model is an outstanding way to ensure the right business outcomes.

Building blocks for business agility

A successful API-centered digital transformation program should result in (partial list):

  • Extraction of critical and market differentiating business capabilities from large, slow-moving monolithic applications
  • Simplification of business functions (e.g. reduction of “gold-plating” / non-essential features)
  • Clearer accountability and delivery autonomy
  • Reduction of the number of variants of business functions resulting in decreased software complexity
  • Risk-based approval processes for data consumption based on use cases

The potential impacts to existing technology investments, talent, organizational structure, & market position are significant. Digital / API taxonomies quickly become tangible constructs with the organization. Capability targets & priorities for transformation should be identified by business leaders, and outcomes measured by predetermined KPIs. API Governance provides the means for business leaders to ensure that digital capabilities delivered are well aligned with business objectives, KPI measurement is inherent to the API, and both names & taxonomies are designed & deliberate.


This article highlighted just a few of the reasons why business leaders should expect and rely on API governance as a measure for digital effectiveness. API governance can also be an enabler for measuring value delivered to consumers, driving innovation, safeguarding credibility, and measuring digital adoption.

Learn more about how to build APIs for consumers, not businesses.

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